we know, prayer is a fundamental part of a Jews life. In this
weeks Torah portion we find the origin of our prayers as well as the
importance and how we can apply it in our daily lives.
on a plane to Israel a Rabbi shared his row with an Israeli
Jew. Of course, their conversation was about Israeli politics. The Israeli
Jew was quick to offer his solution to the trouble in the Middle East. The
Rabbi listened patiently but when the man finished his lesson the Rabbi
quickly proved that all of his ideas and solutions had already been tried
and had failed! Immediately the man offered a new solution. Again the
Rabbi proved that the new solution wasn’t practical either. So the man
tried again. This time the Rabbi simply smiled and said nothing.
Flustered, the man said, “Well, do you have a better solution? Tell me,
what is your answer?”
Rabbi responded with a story:
religious man once needed a lung transplant. Before the
transplant the man and his wife visited many doctors to show them the
x-rays and ask their opinion on the matter, because this is a very
dangerous operation. One of the doctors they visited was a religious Jew
who was an expert in this field. They sat silently in his office as the
doctor pored over their file. He studied the x-rays and the reports of
he finally lifted his eyes from the papers he said to them, 'In
this situation your only hope is the transplant.'
these words the man asked the doctor, 'Is there any medicine I can take
until I receive my new lungs?'
there is,' the doctor replied.
man’s wife became excited, for all the other doctors had
assured them that there was nothing to do but wait!
is this medicine called!' she almost shouted at the doctor.
doctor replied, 'The medicine is called Tehilim. You are
believers, so pray. That is the only medicine that can help you until the
Rabbi turned to the Israeli man and said, “This is also the
only solution for the present situation in Israel. A little Tehilim, a bit
of prayer wouldn't hurt. It would certainly help us!”
where did the concept of prayer originate? We Jews got basically
everything from our Patriarchs so let's think for a moment which of them
could have initiated prayer.
embodied the attribute of kindness. Abraham bequeathed to all
of his descendants the attribute of kindness. Kindness includes
hospitality, visiting the sick, charity, and all the other fine things
that Jews are always so busy with.
embodied the attribute of Severity. In practical terms this
means sacrifice. The Jew is able to sacrifice things that are important to
him for the sake of his belief. We inherit this ability from Isaac, who
allowed himself to be bound upon the altar without uttering a sound. He
effectively gave his life for G-d without having heard the commandment
himself. In fact offering his body as a sacrifice to G-d wasn't even
considered a test for Isaac, though it was the greatest test for Abraham,
for sacrifice was the essence of his being.
our personal lives we show this sacrifice too. It comes on the
form of sacrificing our mundane pleasures for the sake of a mitzvah. For
example to come to shul and pray instead of watching the ball game is a
sacrifice. Even not eating non-kosher meat, or giving of our hard earned
money to tzedakah instead of buying something nice for ourselves also
takes a certain level of sacrifice or severity.
was the attribute of mercy. We are all familiar with the
concept of 'praying for mercy'. Here is where prayer comes in. Jacob gave
us the 'gift of prayer'. True, our sages say that Abraham established the
Morning Prayer and Isaac established the Afternoon Prayer but this is not
written explicitly in the Torah. In scripture, Jacob is the first to say a
prayer for his own personal needs.
analyze the structure of Jacob's prayer. First of all he
mentions his ancestors, "G-d of my father Abraham and G-d of my
father Isaac", like we do at the beginning of the Amida, only we
mention Jacob too.
one knocks on the gates of heaven he must present his I.D. -
that he is a son of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The next stage in Jacob's
prayer was praise and thanks. Jacob praised and thanked G-d for all of the
good He had done for him. He particularly did so in a detailed way. Not
just "thanks for everything". Jacob said, "I have become
small from all the kindnesses: for it was only with my staff that I
crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps."
we pray we should think about all of the good that G-d has done
where you were fifteen, twenty years ago and where you are now.
fifteen years ago you were a kid straight out of college, with
no money, no job and no house. The only thing you did have was a huge debt
from your tuition. But now G-d has given you a house and a job- 'two
third and main stage in prayer is the requests. Jacob turns to
G-d and in clear simple terms he asks, "Deliver me from the hand of
my brother Esau, for I am afraid of him." Jacob wasn't ashamed to
tell G-d that he was scared.
is a time to be completely honest with G-d and with oneself. He
should pray about the things that truly cause him distress.
Jacob says to G-d: "And You said, 'I will surely do good
with you.'" What is the meaning of these words? Jacob says to G-d,
"Even if I do not deserve a miracle, please do this on account of the
promise You made to Abraham that you would cause his descendants to be as
many as the stars and sand."
keeping with Jacob's example we finish our prayers with the
words, "Do it for the sake of Your name. Do it for the sake of Your
right hand. Do it for the sake of Your Torah. Do it for the sake of Your
Holiness." Even if we ourselves are not deserving of Your favor do it
in keeping with Your promise that the Jewish nation will never disappear.
wonderful gift - the ability to pray for our needs - was
bequeathed to us and to Jews of every generation from our father Jacob.
Prayer has been the Jewish people's source of strength and hope through
the hardest of times. And no one is a better example of this than Jacob
whose life was one continuous chain of tragedies. We Jews have always
prayed and kept the faith that with G-d's help everything would turn out
a wonderful Shabbos.